From Six Good Friday Meditations by David Runcorn
Reflection 4 ‘Take up your cross’ – the followers of God
Hymn – to sing or read
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride
Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? Matthew 16:24-26
Jesus never hid from his followers what his ministry was leading towards. He regularly spoke of his coming suffering and cross. For their part his disciples never stopped struggling to accept and make sense of what he was saying.
On one occasion as he told them yet again Peter felt he had heard enough. Suffering, rejection, defeat and being killed are not what should happen to real Messiahs is it? Nothing in the faith they had grown up with prepared them for this either. He takes Jesus to one side and bluntly rebukes him and tells him he is wrong. This is startling language. It is elsewhere a word used of Jesus casting out evil.
But Peter’s response to Jesus may owe more to fear than presumption. For if what Jesus is saying is true then they, his disciples, could be in danger too. Peter expresses what they are all thinking. Jesus is looking at them all as he interrupts Peter and sharply rebukes him back. “For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’
Not only is there no other way for Jesus. The way of the cross is the way of his followers too. Carrying your cross is the action of someone on the way from their cell to the place of execution. In American prisons, inmates on death row chant ‘dead man walking’ when one of their number makes that last journey. What life plans, hopes and ambitions make any sense at all in that moment? This is such a tough uncompromising image of faith.
Yet this is the call of Jesus. ‘Take up your cross and follow me’, says Jesus. To take up our cross is to surrender all our own attempts to use life, religion and God for our own ends, needs and purposes. To take up our cross is to turn from our own attempts to manage and control and secure our own lives. The instinct to do this runs very deep. We are engaging in activity that is powerless to save. We cannot save ourselves. To take up our cross is to turn to Christ and to surrender to the only gift of life that we can utterly trust and depend in – the life Jesus gives.
The story is told of a man seen late one night searching for something under a streetlight. A passer-by stops. ‘Did you lose something here?’ ‘No, I lost it over other there’, replies the man, pointing into the darkness some distance away, ‘but the light is much better here.’ His folly is plain. He has lost something important and knows it. He is looking hard for it. But he is searching on his own terms, and while he does so he has no hope of finding what is lost. To take up our cross is to set our mind on ‘divine things’, says Jesus.
So this all hinges on God and what he is about. All our hope is found here.
The cross is forever the sign of a God who loves, saves, delivers and raises life out of the darkness of what is dead and lost.
Those who are willing to lose their life here, will find it.
Where do you connect with these thoughts? You might pause and keep silence for a few moments.
Lord upon the cross,
give us the grace and courage to take up our cross and follow you.
That in losing our lives for your sake, we may be brought to new life
and may become signs of your love and your salvation in the world.
A space to add your own prayers
We adore you O Christ and we bless you
For by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.